This week, another mother was sent to prison for interfering with custody. On January 8, 2009, Patricia Schafer, 38 and her two children, John, 13 and Jessica, 3, were reported missing by Schafer’s husband, Douglas Schafer. Several days later, after a massive search, Patricia Schafer and her two children were found safe in Maryland. They were located by police exiting the Towson Town Center, a mall located in Towson, Maryland. Schafer was charged with interference of custody for failing to inform the children’s father, her husband, of the location of their children. She was also charged with racking up $20,168 on credit cards that belonged to a relative and friend.
Unlike the case of Maria Jose Carrascosa, which was previously blogged on by Apple Sulit-Peralejo, and parental abductions generally, which was previously blogged on by Jennifer Millner, Patricia Schafer pleaded guilty to the charge of interfering with custody. Schafer was expected to stay out of prison by enrolling in the county’s Drug Court program. She was a candidate for Drug Court because of her addiction to painkillers as well as her bipolar diagnosis. However, Schafer rejected the prospect of Drug Court and was chose to be sentenced to prison. Superior Court Judge John Dangler imposed a four year sentence.
Schafer’s husband was disappointed by his wife’s choice of prison over Drug Court. During his victim impact statement, Douglas Schafer indicated that he did not believe his wife was going to get the help she needs in prison and that the kids will need her down the road. He also spoke of how her actions have devastated their family.
What is interesting about this case is that the Schafers were not going through a bitter divorce where custody was hotly contested. I say this because most interference with custody cases involve nasty disputes over custody. Clearly, the State of New Jersey takes these types of cases very seriously, regardless of the children’s parents’ relationship.